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The art of freestyle walking (loosely related to free running) is a means of self-expression and creative interaction with one's environment. Freestyle walkers use leaps and air moves, clever footwork, dance or any non-traditional walking movement. Today, many practitioners view it as the act of rollerblading or skateboarding without the skates or board. Some participants use soap shoes with grind plates that allow the freestyle walker to grind or slide easily along surfaces such as curbs, ledges and bars. With the increase in popularity of soap shoes during the mid- to late-1990s, many newcomers to freestyle walking mistakenly began to refer to the act of grinding using soap shoes as freestyle walking. The term "Freestyle Walking," itself was coined in 1996 on the television show MTV NEWS: UnFiltered by Brandon Kennedy, Tom Mottier and Brian White of Wheaton, IL.
Basic examples of freestyle walking moves include:
- Freak flips
- Grabs (airbound, often grabbing a part of the body such as the ankle or foot)
- Jams
- Jangles
- Jukes
- Rail slides (often sitting on a rail, or using shoes with grind plates)
- Late spins
- Sick spins
- Slim spins
Related art forms are extreme walking and trail rushing, similar in motivation but including additional elements. Extreme walking normally involves any element of danger, whereas the related art of trail rushing is essentially freestyle walking on a trail. Both of these (as well as soaping) are considered to be subsections of the larger concept of freestyle walking.
Some see a correlation between parkour and freestyle walking. Although the two contain seemingly similar movements, the art forms are driven by different motives. Parkour focuses on efficiency in movement; freestyle walking focuses on spontaneity and glory in movement. There is also a correlation between freestyle walking and free running: both focus on aesthetics over efficiency. However, free running is oriented towards a specific destination, and moving through an environment quickly. Freestyle walking has no intended path.
The equipment needed for freestyle walking is nothing but an urban to sub-urban landscape and a person wanting to express themselves. To help with some of the more difficult moves, such as wall rides, a shoe may be made to give more grip while getting rid of some of the excess weight.
For grinding without inline skates or a skateboard, shoes with grind plates are frequently used.